Archive for February, 2013

It’s 5:43 a.m. and 70 people are already requesting a copy of Apocalypse on Goodreads! That’s way more than I expected and I’m very thrilled. It also says 38 people marked it to read! And a got a good review on Amazon on both Night of the Necromancer and Apocalypse!

If you haven’t yet you should head on over to Goodreads, click on “recently listed giveaways” under the explore tab and enter to win an autographed copy of The Wasteland Chronicles!

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Link is here.

Fortune Favors the Bold

Posted: February 21, 2013 in Inspiration, Life, Writing
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The key theme lately seems to be exhaustion. A lot of change in the air right now. I’m eventually going to move out of my current house. The plan is to move back with my parents at least for a bit. That may not even happen. I kind of want a place on my own. I like the idea of having my own space, my own little kingdom if you will. It’s a little scary since I haven’t lived on my own before, but I figure it will be worth a go.

Point is, I think I’ll be fine whatever happens. I have a lot of optimism about the future even if the daily grind might seem a bit much.

And still…I’m hacking away at Origins. The book will become monstrous. Well, monstrous in the sense that it will be much longer than the projected 40,000 words. Something more like 60. The readers will get more bang for their buck, but I feel like I need at least that long to tell the story without rushing it. A lot of Apocalypse was rushed because I wanted to keep it short. It made it very action-packed, but at the same time it caused some of the characters to get written off the stage quite early. In Origins, I’m hoping to juggle all the story lines and plots effectively, trying to find that right balance between the characters and action.

After posting this I plan on hitting the keyboard again. I’m going to do some night writing, which I don’t do too often these days except on weekends. I’m feeling up to it, so why not? I just woke up from a short nap so I think I can manage.

Writing is kind of a weird. It balances working in silence and promoting the crap out of what you’re doing once it’s done. I probably advertise/talk about my writing more than the average writer, but it’s because I find it interesting (even if others don’t). Right now, I’m in that phase where I’m not being noticed. A writer is by nature a desperate person. I don’t really know why but that seems to be the trend. I’m getting better at it, though. I’m starting to have more confidence in my words and stories and not taking things so personally when flaws are pointed out or it’s not 100 percent (because it never will be). As long as I can put out the best possible story I can in the time I’ve given myself, I think I’m glad. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned about  trying to make a professional product/platform, and I’m still building both as I write this. I only wish I had more time for it.

I learned everything I know now just from doing. I was in a rut for a while, both in life and in writing. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but I just couldn’t find the motivation I lacked. Something snapped in me in late November of 2012. I think I recognized that this is what I wanted, and just started doing it – and the more I learned and did it, it became an addition. Any time I experience a small success, it’s a rush. On a day where I don’t get a single sale, it gets me down…until I notice some the next day, and I feel better.

What is success, to me? I’m still trying to figure that out. Definitely the main component is brightening someone’s day by providing an entertaining escape, at least for a little bit. Also part of that is selling more than a few copies a day, not because I want riches, but if I had could support myself from my writing, it would make me really proud. To me that’s a huge accomplishment, because that’s something that’s really hard to do and takes a lot of hard work, talent, dedication, and not giving up. It takes thick skin. Mettle. Gumption, if you will.

But at the same time, I don’t think I’ve earned it yet. I’ve only been seriously doing this for three months now. I don’t think the universe gives us things easily, because then we don’t appreciate them as much. We only appreciate what we have to work for, that way when we point at what we did and what we accomplished, it actually means something when we say, “That thing, over there? Yeah. That was me. It’s pretty neat, huh?”

I think I know how to tell a story now, although there’s always room for improvement there. I still need to become more clear cut, writing, presentation, and promoting.

A lot of it is just setting manageable goals. I used to set weird goals, like, “I want to make a living off writing.” It’s a weird goal because I have no control over that today. I can say, “I will write 1,000 words today,” or “I will try to have the book ready to go online by the end of March (by writing 1,000 words a day and doing a whole bunch of other stuff),” or “I will do this giveaway this weekend,” or “I will solicit X amount of blogs.” There’s no magic formula. I’m sure there are lots of writers who write well and promote the hell out of their stuff, with hardly any results. I’m sure there’s some that just put something out there, forget about it, and it takes off, and the laws of logic cannot fathom the reason why.

Rare is the reader that will take the chance on an unknown author. Everyone who buys books buys a book because everyone buys that book. I think people are also love a pretty cover, and an intriguing first page.

I’ve been realizing a lot that it’s a numbers game, and a lot is involved – none of which I can control. But then again, my odds of success go way up if I have ten books out there, rather than one. The benefits of self-pubbing is that you can work much faster…you set your own pace, and don’t have to jump through all the hoops that can take months, and even years. There are the down sides – oh yes there are, but right now, the self-pubbing thing is where it’s at for me.

Like anything in life, the more you put yourself out there with writing, the more chance you have of getting lucky. Fortune favors the bold, or something like that.

And thusly concludes another of my madman ramblings. Back to that writing thing.

Another post…about the “muddle”

Posted: February 18, 2013 in Writing
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I’ve reached word 29,000 of my book, and it has hit the dreaded muddle.

What’s this “muddle,” you ask? Well…it’s the part of the book that’s hardest to write for me…the middle. It’s like slogging through a swamp, and it’s the part where my books most often derail catastrophically.

This book is getting longer than I wanted it to. I aimed for forty thousand words, and I feel I’ve just now reached the halfway point. I can’t see myself finishing it before fifty thousand words. We’ll see how much gets cut in the end.

Over my time writing, I’ve learned some ways to deal with getting through the despairing middle of the book. They are:

1. Plenty of action.

2. Plenty of unexpected plot twists (things that you, as the writer, didn’t expect…this is why I’m now a fan of not making outlines, because outlines are too predictable).

Other than that, I’m clueless. I’ve written four thousand words this weekend, which might seem like a lot, but I wanted to get further than that. I’ve at least set it up for the most interesting part of the book to me. Those scenes will be fun to write.

I’m starting to get burned out…just a bit. It’s kind of hard to write and focus when everything is just sort of blah in general. Blah blah blah. Am I allowed to whine? I guess so, since this is my blog. Just another existential crisis, folks, nothing to see here.

Hopefully all this can be done by March. That gives me a month, and a few days. Which might seem like plenty of time, but really…time goes by quick. It’s just gotten to the point where it feels more like work than fun now, which is what always tends to happen. Strangely, when I go through the parts that are “inspired” and the parts I wrote in cold blood, they read much the same.

Anyway, hopefully this coming week is better. I just want life to throw me a bone…just this once. Please?

I swear, after this I’m going to write a romance or a mystery or something. I want to try something that’s completely different from what I’m doing now. Post-apocalyptic/dystopian stuff died with 2012, but I still have an interesting world and several more books to explore it. Things get crazy later, I promise. I’m just ready to get to those crazy parts.

I got home yesterday at about 4:00 after a trip to Wally World. I got off work at the very early hour of 3, and was already trying to stifle some jaw-cracking yawns. When I got home, I ate dinner and started to read. By 5:30, I was out like a light.

Then, 4:30 came around. I had just slept eleven hours.

I have no idea how I slept that long. The last time I slept like that, I was probably a little kid. This isn’t the first time…on Monday or Tuesday, I was in bed by 7:30.

I now have a job where I move around a lot – lifting, walking probably five miles a day (maybe even more). I’ve definitely lost a bit of weight. It’s hard for me to decide whether I like it or not. If there is one positive, I’m getting plenty of exercise, and I don’t have problems sleeping anymore. I can always depend on my brain to mentally exhaust itself because I’m a nonstop thinker, but up until now that physical element was missing. Even when I was running a lot, I probably did not burn as much overall calories as I do now on a day to day basis.

Anyway to quote Mr. Gump, that’s all I have to say about that. In other news, my paperback edition for Apocalypse came in (version two), and so far everything looks great. I think this one will for real will be available for purchase very, very soon, and I’ll probably be hosting my first Goodreads giveaway next week – which is very exciting. I haven’t done anything promo-related for a while, being tired and working on finishing my sequel and such.

The sequel is coming along quite nicely. I hit 24,139 words this morning, and discovered a plot element that’s going to even make the stakes higher. I didn’t really plan on adding this in until today, but it hits all the marks. It expands the world I’m creating, it makes a new threat to the main character and his mission, and overall just provides a more compelling story.

I’ve been working on the book for two or three weeks, and hopefully I’m still on track to have it online in March, the time I set for myself.

Has it really been three days since I’ve posted? Yes, I guess it has.

I’ve been very tired lately – and busy too, I guess. I finally reached the point in my novella that I’ve been waiting for. The apocalypse team is on the road again, saying goodbye to raider town. It took near twenty thousand words for them to get there, about twice as many as I expected. How much of that stays remains to be seen when I go back over it.

Already they’re running into a lot of trouble on the road. They’ve already downed a giant, zombified, troll-like thing and there’s a lot worse waiting ahead of them.

If I stick to my 40,000 word goal, then I guess I would be halfway done with the first draft. Only…this one might go even longer. It’s always hard to tell. If it does end up being very long, I might decide to split it into two books – but it would have to go 25,000 to 30,000 words over my goal for me to decide to do that. The upside of that would be is you wouldn’t have to wait three months for the sequel to come out.

I’m just anxiously waiting for the paperback copy to be ready so I can start doing giveaways. I just can’t wait until book two is finally out and the cover art is done and all that jazz.

Oh yeah, I turned 25 yesterday. I think in my high school/college days, my imagination pictured me already having six wildly successful books by now. I’m just now realizing the amount of work is required, and I’m just now starting to take to it. In the past two months and a half, I’ve definitely done more writing-wise than at any other time of my life. I have focus like I never have before, which is great. I’d like to think it’s something special I did, but we all know it’s probably just coffee. I just wished I had learned all these things two years ago, instead of now, when the e-book market was smaller and it was a bit easier to get established. But I still think there is plenty of room for someone who is talented and is willing to put in the work…and hopefully I am both of those things.

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Title: Till Undeath Do Us Part

Genre: Zombie/Novella

Author: Anthony Camber

TLDR version: A fast-paced, snappy, gripping zombie novella set in Cambridge, England, with a gay main character (though it can be enjoyed by any audience). It contains two story arcs, one focusing on escape, the other on love. The writing is engaging; Camber is talented.

My thoughts: In the zombie genre you get a lot of the same. As such, I’m always looking for something different.

Till Undeath Do Us Part gave me that and more. This fast-paced novella has a lot of things that set it apart – primarily, the same-sex relationship of the main character, Olly, to his boyfriend, Josh, both Cambridge rowers, and the dual story nature of the novella.

The story starts with action from the get-go, when Olly discovers that his boyfriend Josh’s experiments with pheromones have gone awry, zombifying students. Suddenly, Olly is on a mission to escape – not just the students, but his now undead boyfriend.

The dialogue is snappy, witty, and funny in true British form. Camber is definitely a skilled storyteller and I was sucked in after the first few pages. There are two story arcs that switch intermittently. This would normally annoy me, but Camber pulls it off well.

The main story arc follows Olly and his attempt to escape. The other story is a series of flashbacks that details the development of Olly and Josh’s relationship. The escape story is the more interesting, at first, but the love story picks up about halfway into the novella. At the very end, Camber’s intent becomes clear when past and present fuse to provide an amazing conclusion.

Any fan of zombie literature likes good action scenes – this book definitely has them and will keep you on the edge of your seat. I also liked the descriptions of Cambridge. It’s a place I’ve never been, and it was good to see it through the eyes of someone who lives there. Camber describes the place with familiarity, even giving local nicknames to some of the sites. I got the sense of what life might be like for a Cambridge student.

Till Undeath Do Us Part can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates a good zombie story. It is a quick read, and it offers enough that is different for veterans (and non-veterans) of the zombie genre to be hooked. My only regret is that, for the length, it’s a bit pricey when compared to the competition. That said, I don’t think you’d go wrong spending the money for this well-told story.

Writing is one of those things where you have to research some strange things in order to sound credible.

These are some of the questions I’ve researched when writing The Wasteland Chronicles:

How big, exactly, does an asteroid have to be in order cause an apocalypse on the scale of the dinosaurs?

Asteroids range in size from meters to miles. The bigger ones (like the one that’s about to pass us, here) could easily wipe out an entire city. The big ones that are miles wide would end civilization and maybe the human race as we know it. This is what happened to the dinosaurs, most likely. The fact that such a rare event happened in The Wasteland Chronicles in the year 2030 is highly, highly improbable…all meteors of this level of lethality (I think I just made the word up) are documented and none of them will hit Earth on the order of millenniums. That Ragnarok (the meteor in my series) does, will be explained in book two.

How long does it take for someone to recover from a gunshot wound to the shoulder?

It depends on a lot of things: where the bullet entered, did it damage any vitals, did the wound get infected, did it hit bone, did the bullet fracture, was the person young or old, in good or bad health…on and on and on. I learned at minimum someone would be discharged from a hospital in maybe ten days, if things weren’t too shaky. From a shoulder wound, the person would be in a sling from three to six months. Again, it all depends.

What does camel meat taste like?

This is probably the weirdest question I had to research. In the world of The Wasteland Chronicles, meat is a rare commodity, mainly because most of the animals died. One of the few animals that managed to do well, after escaping zoos, were the camels, who survived the harsh environment of the desert a lot better than other species. Camels, therefore, are the main source of meat in the Mojave in the year 2060, thirty years after the impact of the Meteor. Even still, they are not exactly plentiful, as food sources are limited. Camels do fairly well in the cold, especially Bactrian camels (mid-Asia), as well as the kind that live in the Gobi Desert in China, where it can get bitterly cold. But from what I gathered from the Internet (alas, I could not partake in camel myself), camel sorta taste like old beef – its stringy, slightly gamy, and has a barn-like taste to it, whatever that means. It doesn’t sound particular pleasant, but it’s usually prepared in stew or cooked with a red center (I assume because of its toughness), and spiced. It is eaten in the Middle East, where camels are naturally bountiful.

These are just a few of the many questions I’ve had to research. I didn’t go too heavy in it – I got the basic gist and use my brain to fill in the rest. I probably made some technical errors, and if the series takes off, I’m sure I’ll get taken to task on a few of them. However, to me, the main thing is to tell a good story – and as long as your entire story isn’t predicated on a glaring factual error, the rest can be forgiven.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’m still writing every day – which is far ahead of where I was a couple months ago.

I’m starting to realize more and more how hard it is to make it in this business. There is so much competition, yet at the same time, you can’t focus on the competition and you just have to concentrate on your own stories and make them the best they can possibly be. For someone like me, who’s in the learning stage, I’m going to make mistakes still. This might sound strange to say, but thankfully my ego is just big enough to still think I have a shot of being noticed. I still know I do, and I’m glad for that.

I think I’m getting better, little by little. KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is a good training ground. It’s also good because there’s a chance you can make money there. I say “chance” because writing is never a sure thing. There is a strange mix, in varying degrees, of skill, work, and luck. I can’t control how many people buy my books, but I can control how much I write. I can control my skill and my work by writing every day, and as they say, luck favors the prepared. I’m hoping to do be done with book two by March, and I think I can make that goal. I hope to take a hearty bite out of it this weekend, and for the most part it seems to be writing itself.

Writing is a slow game, and I think working a job inspires me to keep trying, even if I wish I had more time to do what I love. When someone tells me they like my book, or if someone I don’t know reviews it on Amazon and says it goods, it makes it all worth it, in a way.

I think Apocalypse might be the best thing I’ve written, not in the sense that it’s amazing, but it is decent. It is good enough. There are some mistakes in there that I would change in the future – the beginning is a bit slow, the ending a bit rushed, some people die off without getting due resolution (which happens in real life, but not often in fiction life). One reviewer said it was dark, but I guess that’s what you get when it’s an apocalypse. That’s kind of what I was going for, anyway. I wanted my main character, Alex, to be reduced to nothing but the clothes on his back, and I think I accomplished that.

All the same, Apocalypse is the best-plotted thing I’ve written, and it has an interesting world. The characters didn’t develop as much as I would have liked them to, but they were developed enough for the purposes of the story. Things are getting a little more tense in book two (I might post some text from it later).

I think Origins will be better than Apocalypse. It has a darker vibe to it, if that even makes sense. In it, the darkness and senseless pain of the world will be made all the more apparent, and Alex will have to deal with it. It will also foreshadow books three and four (yes, there will be four now), where the game will change completely. Everything is just going to get bigger and bigger, until the final showdown at the end.

Characters Move Plot

Posted: February 5, 2013 in Writing
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One of my weaknesses as a writer is character development. I don’t know if this is something that other writers struggle with, but it has been one for me.

I’m getting better, though. The characters in Apocalypse are more fleshed out than in previous books I’ve written, and I’m trying to find that happy balance between action and getting to know the characters.

But sometimes, one of the things I miss out on is character development through action.

When I write, I don’t really think in terms of “what can I do to develop this character?” It’s more organic for me. It’s more like, a situation arises, or one character does something to another one, and I think, “What would my character do, given this situation?” It’s like I’m stepping in that character’s shoes for a moment, taking on all who they are, and going from there.

In a sense, I am all of my characters. After all, I created them. They exist in my head, and in the head of anyone who reads about them. If there’s anything I’ve learned about people in general it’s that they are complicated. In the end, they are out for themselves. Each one thinks they are the main character of their own drama. A story is not all about the main character, although the book itself might be centered around him, or her.

Characters do not willingly give up power to each other. They have their own agendas and goals, and only help the main character if their goals line up with his or hers.

No character is perfect, either. They have bad as well as good. Thinking of the book I’m writing on, Alex, the main character is innocent and good – but these are also his weaknesses, and without his friends, he wouldn’t survive long.

Makara is tough, but she is also harsh. She does not trust easily, or at all, and she doesn’t want to consider the deep questions. She is a woman of action, who as long as she has a singular goal she can fight toward, she can forget everything else.

Samuel is idealistic, strong, and a natural leader. He can also be blind to the needs of others as he focuses on getting the main mission done. Of all the characters, Samuel is so far the least realized because he has had so little page time – though he will play a big part in book two.

And there are other characters as well coming on the stage – and seeing them interact with their own goals, motivations, and selfish ambitions has turned his apocalypse team into a powder keg, with its own internal conflicts to deal with if they are ever to complete their mission. They have a long way to go, however, and they haven’t even gotten started on their journey yet!

I just passed ten thousand words this morning, realizing that characters are the reason we read books – not genre, a cool cover, or whatever. These things help, but when it gets down to it, we are just addicted to story – and you don’t have a story unless you have at least one character that wants something, and something else that prevents them from getting it.

Characters are always the movers of plot. There might be something outside their control that influences the plot (like the weather, or a random death, or some other catastrophe (or perhaps something not so catastrophic)), but in the end, it’s the character’s decision that causes the story to move forward toward its resolution – and sometimes the resolution is the non-resolution.

Anyway, that’s my rant on characters for now. I’ve run out of time to write, but I will probably revisit the topic later.

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About this book:

Title: Portal Aracne I (Reversion)

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Horror

Author: J. Thorn

My thoughts:

This is my first indie book review on this blog, and this is something I hope I can do from time to time (on a once or twice a week basis). There are a lot of hidden gems out there that don’t get discovered. Trust me, there’s a lot that’s bad as well, but sometimes you find something that’s really cheap yet good.

Portal Arcane really is that. I should preface this by saying that this isn’t for everyone.  It has a slower pace, but I still found myself getting sucked in. The beginning is dark and somber, starting in a dark forest with dozens of ropes hanging from trees. We follow Samuel, the amnesiac protagonist, as he goes on a quest to discover who he was – and where he is – and why he’s being hunted.

The writing is clear, and there is always the hint of danger looming – it makes for a very dark, spooky vibe, where the fear is more in the anticipation of danger than the actual danger itself (though that danger is always there, like a cloud).

Portal Arcane  was a short read, or at least it felt that way to me. As you go through the story, Samuel discovers bits of his past through flashbacks, very Lost-like. I am not a fan of flashbacks, as I think they ruin the pacing of a story, but here they worked rather well. The mood is dark, and it’s a bit esoteric – but at the same time, I found myself really getting into this story. For an indie book, the errors were very low – so if that sort of thing annoys you, fear not, grammarians.

My main critique is while the dimensional concept of the book is fascinating, it is never fully explained. Perhaps this is intentional, and perhaps it is answered in a sequel.

I’d recommend it for anyone who’s a fan of gloomy stuff, where the fear is more in the impending doom than the monster in the closet. I never really found Portal Arcane scary, but it also takes a lot to creep me out – this book’s dark flavor comes from its psychological, relentless nature.

Also, the ending – the ending was amazing. Maybe not the perfect tie-up, as it leaves unanswered questions (which may or may not be answered in the sequels), but it does well enough. It’s only $.99, and probably should go for a little more, to be honest, because it’s worth it.